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Sheriff says human trafficking numbers have more than tripled in Kinney County

Human smuggling cases continue to increase in Kinney County
Human smuggling cases continue to increase in Kinney County 02:51

KINNEY COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM)— In June 2021, Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe was already sounding alarms over what at the time he called "an invasion" of his south Texas county by undocumented migrants and human smugglers. 

Since then, Sheriff Coe has become one of the most vocal border region sheriff's now saying cases of human smuggling in his county haven't just spiked from nearly two years ago, but according to him their numbers have more than tripled. 

In a recent interview with CBS 11, Sheriff Coe said they documented 169 cases of human smuggling in 2021. 2022 closed the year with more than 700, and so far in 2023 Coe says they are on pace to break previous records again with 120 cases of human smuggling.

He added, "More is needed. If we can't control it here the next stop is the Red River", when speaking about how much law enforcement help he needs. 

Kinney County is about 15,000 square miles of mostly ranch and rural land. 

They only have six full time deputies to patrol it all. 

Sheriff Coe says after sending a letter to 40 different counties asking their sheriff's for help, aid finally came in early February in the way of a task force assembled by another South Texas Sheriff, Roy Boyd from Goliad County. 

The task force included deputies from 20 different agencies across the state of Texas. 

The extra law enforcement presence from nearby counties in Kinney County resulted in much more effective efforts to stop suspected smugglers, undocumented migrants, and to seize drugs according to Sheriff Coe. 

When commenting on the help sent to him Sheriff Coe said, "Lots of caffeine and patriotism we are doing what we can to get it done."

He went on to say the extra help allowed them to patrol areas they were forced to ignore before because of man power. 

Coe said, "We were hitting areas that we haven't had law enforcement presence in in probably two or three years. They went down there and made several good human smuggling cases down there."

While the final tally of numbers pertaining to the task force's work is still being analyzed, Sheriff Coe says the overall operation was a success. 

The first round of supplemental deputies from the task force have already left Kinney County, but more are expected to cycle in during the coming weeks and months as part of an on-going commitment from various counties to help Kinney County deputies. 

Sheriff Coe affirmed they already have new commitments from other Sheriff's offices and even from out of state. 

He said, the busy months when these cases typically spike further are around the corner, adding, "March, April, May. So, I don't know what to expect for those three months."

Coe added, smugglers are being recruited from not just throughout Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area but from across the country as well. 

He says cartels are promising lucrative cash for those willing to head to the border to illegally transport migrants further north in the country and into major U.S. cities. 

Coe said, "We have caught people recently out of the Bronx. Came in from New York. We are catching Californians. Today we caught some out of Oklahoma."

While no North Texas agency has agreed to send extra law enforcement officers to Kinney County during their first task force operation, Sheriff Coe is hoping there will be some sent to help in the near future.

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